South Park

a Reeeview item by J Nash (Wednesday December 9th, 2009)

JN says...JN saysA review for PC Gamer. This is the original South Park game, the first-person shooty one, and possibly the source of that perennial PR lie, “We’ll fix it for the port.” Publicity at the time concentrated almost exclusively on the novel authenticity of the visual design and character voices, wondering in amazement how the publishers pulled it off using only a book of cheques; hence the throwaway ending. After subbing, the review had a big gap at the top so someone added how spectacularly brilliant it was that the actual real genuine television people were involved. Ho.
 
Unusually, this is a game I reviewed without completing it, which always makes me ill with guilt that I haven’t been exhaustively fair. (I played through Dredd vs Death twice in a row for example, just in case Hard was significantly different — this was after my colossally microscopic examination of Goldeneye and I tended to give everything the benefit of the doubt that replaying at a higher difficulty was practically a new game again.) Suspicions solidified during level 2.1 and I’d intended to stop there, but instead kept going FOR YOU until I was thrown out of the building when PCG’s offices were locked up for the night. And that’s why today I’m so in demand for reviews that I don’t have time to waste reprinting old items about games you can no longer physically play even if you wanted to which you don’t because they were rubbish. (SUB: PLEASE CHECK.)

Publisher: Acclaim
Developer: Iguana

Another kick in the face for the game-buying public then.

Contemptible

Question time. How many monsters would you estimate must be killed in South Park’s opening level? As a guide, Doom 2’s had about 15. Think it over. You have until the buzzer.

You’ve perhaps heard that South Park suffers from being a conversion of a console game. This is snobbery rubbish. It suffers, in fact, from being a conversion of a terrible console game. The history of South Park is inglorious — completed with improbable speed (about four months, I think, which is usually the time taken to decide on the flavour of the promotional lollipops) it was such an obviously ghastly hack job no-thought cynical scummy robbery of a cash-in that it somehow bypassed the mind on the atomic level, leaving treacherously positive reviews in its wake and (if they have a picokilo of decency) designers Iguana astonished that they hadn’t been set on fire. Still, never mind. They winked that the luxuriously pampered PC version would correct all the faults (like Unreal’s virtual rewrite via “patches,” say). This is a lie, and while we’re on the subject, what’s this gentlemen’s agreement of previews fawning over even the clearest…

BZZZZZ!

It is, of course, 185.

I’d like you to think about that for a moment. On level one of South Park, you must kill 185 monsters. (They’re turkeys, with a few cows thrown in. The turkeys dash straight at you, while the cows ingeniously dash straight at you. To beat them, you walk backwards — there’s no run key in South Park — while holding down the fire button for a universally effective rapid volley of default-weapon snowballs. Congratulations! You have mastered South Park.) In the first “episode” of four levels, you must kill, altogether, 740 foes. (That really is must, incidentally — if anything in a section is left alive, the door to the next won’t open.)

“But J Nash,” you quiz keenly, “that’s logistically hard to swallow. Why, the levels must be mammoth.” They are, and they’re totally devoid of anything to “do” (buttons to push, say, or even things to knock over). It all looks the same and you have no map, but there is an excellent system of pointy signs to keep you generally on track. Except an integral part of the game is preventing “tanks” (large monsters) from reaching and destroying the town (otherwise you’re thrown into a microscopically different sub-game where you have to kill some large monsters who are destroying the town) so you spend quite a bit of time leadenly chasing them miles back the way you came. The object of the 740 monsters, then, is to distract you from becoming furious at how tinily little of a game there is.

Let’s jump ahead a bit. After using the patented backwards-and-fire routine (with intermittent chaser chaser) for about two hours solid, you’ll meet the level one boss, at which point the game’s quality dips noticeably. He is abominably difficult to beat, in an oh-I-see-how-(but-this-will-take-forever) sort of way. The object of this is to prevent you reaching the next “episode” and discovering that:

It is exactly the same, only now the “tanks” start much nearer the town and the monsters (hydrocephalic clones) take 25 hits to kill instead of the turkeys’ two. Naturally, due to this proportionally tougher challenge, there aren’t 185 of them. There are 51. And three-quarters of the way through the following identical level, friend reader, I became sick to the soul and gave up. If anyone from Iguana boils at the thought I haven’t given the one-player game a fair trial, and that the remaining three “episodes” are remarkably, stunningly, enjoyably better, I invite them to write in with forceful argument. Perhaps we could have a small wager, with the proceeds going to a local tramp.

But hist. Let us remember that Quake, despite having a completely crap one-player game (oh, come on), was celebrated globally for its multi-player wizardliness. Perhaps South Park’s eight-player deathmatch saves the day? Well, it is amusingly novel (weapons include a shape-changing ray and a cow gun) and I liked the maze where small characters can advantageously hide behind low walls, but it’s preposterously imbalanced (think Quake’s rocket launcher, except almost everything is a rocket launcher) and, to be honest, feels like a mildly talented fanboy’s “mod.” Still, it does account for 98% of the overall score.

South Park expresses what publishers Acclaim and designers Iguana think of you, readers. They think you’re stupid. They think you’re worthless, stupid cretins whose purpose in existing is to give them money for ruining things you like. They hate you. Don’t let them win, readers. Don’t leave me sad.

By the way, everything looks more or less like it does in the television programme, and the voices are by the original actors.

VERDICT
Shamefully appalling non-game. Odium with guns.
8%

FLAT STANLEY
A rather neat summary of the wrongness of South Park is the way everyone’s 3D. Famously, the show (which you’ve probably already jumped up to say how feebly primitive you always thought it was, now that the fashionable aspects have tailed off. Trouble is, freakies, it’s hugely more clever than you think) consists entirely of cut-outs (though, curiously, done with a computer). But, of course, 2D cut-out characters wouldn’t have worked in a Doom game. They do work splendidly in, for example, the cracking Playstation genre-buster Parappa the Rapper, but, hey, trying to similarly meld a splendidly bizarre style of presentation with a suitable game would have eaten too much into that valuable development time.

OH, GO ON
Oh, go on, Acclaim. Say the game’s like it is because it’s aimed at kids. Go on. I dare you.